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First Aid for Stonefish Sting

Last updated Feb. 20, 2018

Richard Ling

The stonefish is the most venomous fish of the world. It blends well amongst the sea floor. The fish is covered in prickly spines that carry toxic venom. Stonefish do not attack humans, but can inflict painful stings with the release of potent venom, when they are stepped upon unintentionally.


What is Stonefish Sting?

The stonefish is the most venomous fish of the world. It blends well amongst the sea floor. The fish is covered in prickly spines that carry toxic venom. Stonefish do not attack humans, but can inflict painful stings with the release of potent venom, when they are stepped upon unintentionally.

What are the Causes of Stonefish Sting?

Most common causes of Stonefish Stings include (but are not limited to):

  • Swimmers, surfers, divers, and beachgoers
  • Coral reef divers
  • Wading in ocean waters without suitable protective clothing
  • Walking barefoot on the beach or in shallow sea water
  • Keeping them as pets in aquariums
  • Handling dead or live stonefish species

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Stonefish Sting?

Signs and symptoms of Stonefish Stings vary according to the type of species the individual is exposed to and the amount of toxin injected. The symptoms may be mild or severe and could include:

  • Severe stinging pain lasting for several hours
  • Rashes on the skin (red-colored welts), bruising
  • Swelling of the wound
  • Blister formation
  • Headaches
  • Abnormal heart rate, reduced blood pressure
  • Allergic shock or reaction, in some cases
  • Shortness of breath; breathing difficulties
  • Muscle cramps, abdominal cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Severe fatigue
  • Unconsciousness

How is First Aid administered for Stonefish Sting?

If a Stonefish Sting (or sting or bite of a marine creature) is suspected, it is always important to call your local emergency helpline number (or 911 in the US) without any delay, and provide as much information as possible, even if the individual does not have any symptoms.

Until medical help arrives:

  • Move the individual away from the water or incident spot
  • Make a note of the exact time of the incident and notify the emergency medical personnel accordingly
  • Try to remove the stinger (if visible), by gently scraping the site using a hard-edged object (either metal or plastic) or a pair of tweezers
  • Use hot water to inactivate any remaining toxin
  • Use pressure to arrest bleeding (if possible)
  • Try to identify or locate the marine animal (only if safely possible) and keep the medical personnel informed
  • Administer antivenom, if available
  • DO NOT give anything orally to the individual
  • Unless directed by the physician, DO NOT give any medication

Who should administer First Aid for Stonefish Sting?

The individual himself/herself or someone nearby may begin to administer First Aid. Call your local emergency helpline number or 911 immediately as mentioned before.

What is the Prognosis of Stonefish Sting?

The prognosis of Stonefish Sting is dependent on the potency of the toxin, the severity of reaction, and timely manner in which treatment is administered.

How can Stonefish Sting be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Stonefish Sting include:

  • Avoid making an attempt to touch or handle marine animals unnecessarily, even if they are pets
  • Do not ignore warnings of lifeguards or health officials at the beach
  • Wear protective clothing if you plan to swim or dive in infested areas
  • Generally be aware or watchful of the waters you are in (to the extent possible)
  • Wear protective footwear while walking on beach sand
  • Ensure safety precautions while cleaning marine animal aquariums

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

Do’s:

  • Call your local emergency helpline number (or 911) for help
  • Remove the victim immediately from the water
  • Wear gloves while removing stingers
  • When in doubt, wash the affected area with seawater and not freshwater
  • If possible, use hot water to repeatedly wash the wound

Don’ts:

  • Do not hesitate to call your emergency help services
  • Do not remove stingers without wearing suitable protective hand gloves
  • Do not medicate the individual, unless advised by a healthcare professional
  • Do not move the affected region of the body too much
  • Do not run or exercise which might increase the circulation of toxin in the body
  • Do not elevate the affected area above the heart level, since this can also increase circulation of the toxin

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Dec. 27, 2015
Last updated: Feb. 20, 2018